Ok. That was damned cool.
Tuesday, I got a tip from a friend of mine that a very special show was going to happen in town tonight. As I heard the details and as I researched more details online, I became more intrigued and I had to go. No choice in the matter.
On the heals of last night’s stellar performance (as I’ve heard) at the Back Yard amphitheater, members of David Bowie’s backup band, formally known as a band called Spooky Ghost, were to play at the Continental Club on South Congress. It was rumored and speculated that Bowie himself would be there and make a stage appearance. Now you see why I had to go. I knew it was possible that he’d be there, considering the next Reality Tour date is for tomorrow night in Houston, but I didn’t know if he’d be performing or if he’d be on the side watching his bandmates have their own spotlights. Whatever was in the plans for the evening, I knew it was going to be super cool and high in quality.
I left the apartment at 7:45 and headed downtown. Got there around 8pm, got stamped, stood inside the club for a few minutes to hear the first warmup “soundcheck” band, which was pretty good for a local two-piece band. I stepped outside to grab some snacks from somewhere. Came back to go ahead and stand in line, since they were going to kick everyone out at 8:30 to reset the place and charge cover. I got in line in a good, good spot, like 10 people back from the front. Nice. Before they let us in around 9:15, I managed to get drawn into a small discussion of the show last night with some people who were standing behind me. Cool how that stuff happens. The line got to moving, I paid my $10 cover, got my stamp, bought a drink, and zoom I found a spot right at the stage, 2 feet back from front. Again, niiiice.
I looked around as I stood there just to get a lay of the scene. I had heard, from some guys who were in line ahead of me, that Bowie definitely was there in attendance, so I had to see. Sure enough, I saw. He was kicked back on a tall chair, one leg bent up in front of him, as he was chatting to the girl to his left and watching the first act get ready to play. So, yes, ladies and gentlemen, I, Shawn, have seen David Bowie in a crowded, smoky, low-lit bar in the middle of Austin, Texas, at a distance of 20 feet. Take THAT!
The first act was a solo performance by Bowie’s bassist and backup vocalist Gail Ann Dorsey. She was there belting out some smoky vocals over her acoustic set and doing a pretty bang-up job at it. Not bad at all. Did about 5 songs, mostly jazzy in style. For her fourth song, she enlisted the help of keyboardist Mike Garson, a totally incredible jazz-piano badass, to play for her as she sung. That was very cool, especially during his solo. A great duet, those two.
So, after her performance, she made way for Spooky Ghost, well, more like a one-man show by an Irish fellow named Gerry Leonard. He played solo electric guitar, a tough feat made tougher by the semicircle of pedals, effects boxes, and cables at his feet. This man was good. Damn good. His skill and style is loud, blustery, but layered thick by live digital delays and loops. Amazing, laying all those loops and tracks live, his feet going from pedal to pedal while he’s still playing, laying down part after part for his vocal interludes. He brought Garson back onstage for another number, inspired by the monotonic dirge music of India – mindblowing. During the song, they shared solos and sort of challenged each other, Garson just going crazy all over the piano and the audience shouting. That was so fun.
And, if that wasn’t enough, they introduced and brought to the stage rock legend Earl Slick for a few numbers as a trio, mostly blues and loud rock. It was so fun watching these three masters just stand around and have a good jam session, playing off of each other like consumate musicians, throwing stuff into the mix just to see how the others would react. That was the fun part. They finished off the show after 2 more songs and thanked us as they left the stage to our shouts of “one more!” Leonard and Slick came back to play another song, a balls-out blues number, just two guys and their guitars getting raw. That’s where it’s at, man.
Overall, it was a good, good thing. The show was fantastic, even if Bowie stayed out of the limelight. It’s good, and impressive, to know that big-named musicians and artists support each other in that fashion. The music was great, the band was loose, the audience was supportive, and the vibe was pretty fun. I had a damned good time. It was totally serendipitous that I was brought to this point, and I am happy. Here’s to more serendipity.